Janine Benyus On The Virtues Of Imitating Nature
Our mission, in both our business and our nonprofit, is to increase respect for the natural world. Creating more-sustainable products and processes is just an extension of that. To learn from nature, you have to become involved with what Wes Jackson calls the “deep conversation.” To learn how to take carbohydrates and water and turn them into a fiber as strong as steel, as a spider does, you go to a spider and respectfully ask, “How are you doing that?” Then you go and try to do it yourself. And when you fail — it’s very hard to do! — you go back to the organism and ask again.
His palsied hands shiver as he twists the fishing line one, two, three, four times around, then threads it through. He pulls the tangle of line tight and drops the blue-silver lure. It swings between us. “That’s a fisherman’s knot,” Pa Peters tells me, and he chuckles and pushes his thick glasses up the bridge of his bent nose. “That’s how you do it.”
The Sumner Press, the weekly paper from my hometown in southeastern Illinois, continues to arrive in my mailbox in Ohio even though I’m not a subscriber. A few years ago, when my wife and I were the grand marshals for the Sumner fall-festival parade, the publisher gave us a complimentary one-year subscription. The subscription has run out, but the paper keeps coming, as if a higher power has decided I need it in my life.
You hang up the cellphone and think about how the surgeon cleared his throat again and again as he asked how you were, then said, “I have the best news of bad news,” and you think how you knew what he was going to say as soon as you heard his voice.
It was a brilliantly sunny October day, and I was driving on Route 100 alongside Vermont’s White River when the driver of the logging truck in front of me slammed on the brakes. I stopped just in time to avoid a collision and saw a great animal floundering in the middle of the road up ahead. Someone had hit a white-tailed deer, a doe.
Go-boy made a knife for his girlfriend. He called it an ulu, and I had never seen anything like it before. The ulu was an Eskimo fish-cutting knife. It was about the size and shape of the bill on a Lakers cap. When Go showed me how an ulu was used, he held its handle and carved up the air with card-dealing slashes. He said Eskimos never wasted any meat because of this knife.